Friday, September 4, 2015
I Hate Pak (...and Myself)
Some years ago, I started a recurring joke on Twitter, tweeting “#IHatePak”. “Pak,” of course, is my homie Pakistanimal. Loud, audacious, calamitous… And that’s when he’s stone sober. Get him hammered—or, more often than not, sit back and watch him get himself hammered—and those personality traits ratchet up to unsafe levels.
I don’t truly hate the man. He’s one of my closest and most trusted friends. But I do hate how every single night at the bar with him turns into one of the worst hangovers I’ve ever experienced the next morning. And that’s not exaggeration for hyperbole’s sake; I cannot name one single, solitary instance when, the morning after he and I were hanging out at a bar, I didn’t feel like a bus full of overweight circus clowns had hit me. Because shots.
So, I hate Pak. Blah, blah, blah, I’m a grown man, and can choose not to participate in the bukkake of Fireball shots, blah. Whatever. I hate Pak.
I hate him even more because one Saturday in August, as I lay on my couch at 20 after nine, content with a boring, stay-at-home night, his name appeared on the screen of my ringing phone. And because he wanted to go out drinking. And because, when I said there was a Jam on Walnut happening up the street from me, he said, “I’ll be there by 10.”
An hour later, we dapped each other up on the sidewalk in front of my apartment building. The pause was brief—long enough for him to hand me his car keys for the night—as we then began striding purposefully in the direction of the Jam. Halfway along that journey, we met Annie.
To be more accurate, Annie met us. She was a cute, younger blonde girl of medium height, walking in a group of people ahead of us on the sidewalk. As Pak and I bs’d, she abruptly spun around and said, “Mi—oh. Hi, gentlemen.” My Pakistani friend’s voice, she said, sounded just like that of someone she’d met earlier in the night, and she thought it was him walking behind her.
Smiling and bubbly, Annie was fresh from Grand Rapids, MI. As in, she had just moved to Pittsburgh that morning. So when she realized that the voices behind her were two large, unknown brown men, she didn’t hastily retreat. Instead she introduced herself and hugged each of us. Annie just wanted as many new friends as possible.
As we accompanied her up the sidewalk, she asked for pointers about living in Pittsburgh, and in Shadyside specifically. While giving her a few tidbits to hold onto, I looked down and caught sight of her shaky footwork. Annie was struggling. With every step of her right foot, she stumbled over the low walls, stones, fences, shrubbery, etc. that delineated front yards from public walkway. She somehow kept her balance and happy demeanor, despite the constant bumbles.
And, let’s remember: she was walking towards the Jam. We caught up with her friends and then moved on without Annie.
Late August is a time of renewal in my neighborhood, as twentysomethings starting grad school or their first adult jobs have moved in, replacing the residents who’ve moved on to the house with a white picket fence in the suburbs. A big, new world is opening up for these fresh faces, faster than they know what’s happening, and the fear and excitement is alive in their eyes. Pak and I slowly waded through the high tide of youth and freedom, past the games of cornhole and beer pong, past the beer stands and sleeveless bros, past the band on stage rocking out in front of a sea of Annies.
Shady Grove, we got as far as two feet past the door.
After ten minutes or so of flowing with the surging throng, we ended up standing behind a guy sitting at the bar with his friend. He then turned around, looked up at me, and made it clear he didn’t want any problems, by announcing, “I don’t want any problems.”
[Side note, white people: You don’t have to automatically fear every black person you see.]
I reassured him that we didn’t either, and after some slurring and clumsy daps, he offered us his and his friend’s seats, since they were leaving. As soon as we’d sat down, Pak was ordering shots. *sigh*
We were also flagged down by our buddy E. Bunnies, who quickly cheered from the corner of the bar, “I’ve got my mom with me!” A cute, tiny woman in her 50s poked her head through the crowd and waved with a big smile. A few minutes later, they’d made their way over to our spot at the bar.
“You motherfuckers meet my mom!”
Weak, Pak and I pointed out the ironic hilarity of that sentence to Bunnies. “Well, you’re not fucking my mom.”
After a few minutes, they migrated out of Grove, headed towards another bar. As Pak and I talked with our friends behind the rail, we felt a little nudge between us. I turned to find one of the most strikingly beautiful women I’ve ever met, who was trying to get in position to catch a bartender’s eye.
She was petite. She was half-Japanese. She was genuinely funny, and wholly unpretentious. She had big, soft brown eyes that dazzled when trained on you. She was from Cali. Her name was…well, that part’s not important. Nor is the rest, really. Because she was also engaged.
“Of course,” I thought, as she mentioned her fiancé. I should’ve predicted that one. But she did buy us shots. So, you know…there’s still hope.
The best thing about the Jams, without fault, is the sheer volume of women out to enjoy a summer night of music and fun. Pak’s wedding ring and my lack of fucks seemed to be attracting attention frequently. Maybe older men got it going on. Or maybe we just reminded them of their favorite uncles.
A blonde, who seemed nice enough, though she failed to meet the more shallow prerequisites that so many others were acing that night, asked to make room between us to order herself a drink. Pak and I may be superficial, but we’re still gentlemen. We yielded the breach, and I called over my boy Jed—who was bartending—for her.
When she’d gotten her drink and walked off again, Jed stopped by while filling another order. “I know who’s here, what’s going on. Don’t flag me down for her.” I assured I meant nothing by it, was just trying to be helpful. “She’s ordered three times now without tipping,” he explained. "Her friends too. Don’t help them.”
A cute friend of the blonde stepped up between us. Brown curls. Glasses. A mischievous danger in her eye.
In my head: “Hmm, this is going to get delicate.”
Pak offered to buy Cute Chick a shot (he really just wanted more for us; she just happened to be in the line of fire), and they struck a deal: She’d buy a round for her friends and us, and then he’d buy a round. As a bystander looking at getting two more free shots while in the presence of a good looking woman, the arrangement sounded like a win-win.
Her round was poured and distributed. We toasted and threw them back. Pak’s round was poured and distributed. We toasted and threw them back—well, most of us did. Cute Chick, instead of doing the shot, tossed it on the ground.
Pak was angry, but showed restraint by walking off to the men’s room. Laughing it off, she tried to explain to me that she didn’t want to do the shot.
Me: “So you couldn’t hand it to someone else? Or hand it back to him?”
Her: *shoulder shrug and giggle*
Me: “You need to fuck off.”
The blonde eventually came over and tried to defend her friend’s actions. But she was quickly flustered by her own inability to suspend logic to the point where pouring out a shot that was bought for you, after you asked for it, wasn’t childish and inconsiderate. She gathered Cute Chick and the others and moved off.
Sadly, with them went my recollection of the rest of the night. The shots got me. How ironic—brought down by the very thing I’d fought to defend.
I woke up the next morning with Pak standing in my bedroom doorway, asking for his keys. Judging by my cash-less wallet and the pain in my head, we didn’t go out quietly. But we made it home in one piece. I can only hope Annie was as lucky.
I hate Pak.